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  1. (This is a repost of a very old journal. It's a co-post by Carmen, Vic and Joe. Enjoy)


    1 month prior to La Vie De Luxe


    Munch Museum, Norway


    “Jeg skulle Ønske denne dagen skulle vaere over med tidligere” [Translation: I wish this day would be over with sooner] remarked one of the guards patrolling the prestigious musuem’s hallways.


    “Jeg vet hva du mener. Min kones lage lutefisk kveld. Jeg kan ikke vente.” [Translation: I know what you mean. My wife’s making lutefisk tonight. I can’t wait.] came the reply from another guard.


    Neither pair noticed a short, lean man walk past and plant a couple of packages in the shadows. The man made his way into the room where ‘The Scream’ was being displayed. He flashed a mischievous smile as he admired it.

    “Soon you won’t be the only one in the place screaming my friend. Hyuk hyuk!”


    The man pulled a small remote out of his pocket with his right hand whilst putting on a gas mask with his other hand. Before the guards saw what he was doing, he flicked the red switch on the remote, detonating all of the one dozen stink bombs he had hidden around the building. Within a minute, a foul smelling cloud filled the musuem and soon panicked cries of “Det stinker. La oss komme oss vekk herfra” [It stinks. Let’s get out of here.] could be heard as guards and patrons alike scrambled for the exits.


    During the chaos, no one noticed the mysterious man walk over to the case where ‘The Scream’ was and smash it with a jester’s staff. The man then took the painting down and put it in a protective suitcase before heading out the exit along with the other fleeing patrons.


    Next day

    Makarska, Republic of Croatia


    Makarska was quiet, romantic, and hardly the spot for a lone female traveler, but VILE's ringleader knew this was a place yet to conceive her mischievous notoriety. She would have chosen Italy, but following the events of ACME's Venetian Masquerade last winter, considering the country seemed irrational; and after consulting with Flag in frigid Austria, she wanted the Mediterranean in her hair.


    Outside a small, seaside bosanska kavana, or Bosnian Café, Carmen sat in a white sundress and straw hat. A light wind kissed her cheeks, and while it was cool for beach weather, she felt rather contented. The kava in front of her, sweetened and heavily creamed, emitted a swirl of dancing steam. Playfully, she placed a calm finger over her cup to watch vapors writhe past the obstruction.



    Briefly, she wondered if she would play the part of the smoke, or the digit.


    It took Vic “The Slick” Fumigalli a while to spot his boss. First off, she never gave exact locations, and second, she knew how to blend in. In fact, Carmen only wore her red coat and hat when she wanted to be seen, and that’s usually when she wanted to distract ACME. This made it hard for even seasoned VILE agents to pick her out of a scene, but Vic was used to her ‘tells’, the finger over the cup was one of them.


    As he walked to Carmen in his usual polyester suit, he couldn’t help looking at her like a stranger. In any other circumstances, a woman like that would ignore his type completely. How he got so lucky working for her, he’d have to ask his psychic network.


    “Joke’s in the bag,” Vic reported as he smoothed his shirt and took a seat next to the lady in white, “Oslo,” he added with a play on words, “it’s a scream. Should we move?”




    "You should learn to relax," Carmen commented on her companion's nature, "Kava? Newspaper? Mild strings of general conversations before speaking in code?"



    The conman shrugged a little, “Not too keen about swiping you know who’s tower, know what I mean?” Lifting the newspaper to look over headlines, he noticed they were in Croatian and put them back down, “Any way, this joker’s funny, non-violent, I think he fits the profile. More, he’s got formulas for stink bombs and this practically instant knock-out gas... I’ve seen it, I want it.”



    “I’m not quite sure I share your enthusiasm,” the Thief sipped her kava, “he seems rather sane. Sanity, chemistry, and this odd sense of humor amalgamates to someone ready to snap.” Carmen placed her cup down and twisted it so the handle pointed to the direction of the sun, “In metaphorical terms, a jester guarding a dungeon.”


    "You're worried about him snapping?" Vic made a skeptical comment, "I'm worried about him being too funny for his own good. I think we can both agree our forecasts can't all be bullseye."


    "Mm," she admitted by tipping her head slightly and returned to watching her coffee, "Did you get my new coat?"


    "Everything ready to go," Fumigalli slipped a set of keys next to her hand, "The Scientists are waiting for you at Terminal 3." Of course, he was speaking in code again. There were no scientists at any terminal. The key would open a locker in one of the destinations she specified. He put her newly tailored coat and hat in there, along with a few other things she’d need for her trip.


    This ended Vic's part of the recruitment, he needed to rush off to Canada for the big heist soon. Kerr's transportation would be delayed until Carmen got to where she needed to be, then it was up to the jester to perform for the Queen... if she decided to grant him an audience. For all Vic knew, she might not go to Copenhagen.



    12 hours later

    Copenhagen, Denmark


    “You have got to be kidding me!” grumbled Joe as he entered the arrival hall of Copenhagen airport. It baffled Joe how a simple 2 hour flight from Oslo to Copenhagen had managed to turn into a 7 hour debacle. First, his original plane had to turn back midway due to technical complications; The second plane was then beset by engine troubles and delayed on the runway for another hour before they straightened everything out. The kicker was that when they had finally arrived at Copenhagen Airport the plane wasn’t cleared to land due to some radar malfunction. The irony of how long it had taken to travel between 2 countries practically next to each other was not lost on him.


    Joe took a deep breath as he braced himself for what came next. He had been fortunate to be able to get his new prize past customs at Oslo (having a friend on the inside helps) but Copenhagen would be a different story. He knew if he went through customs they would find the painting in his carry-on. Luckily for Joe, he knew of an alternative exit, one found in every airport - the fire escape. Joe waited beside said fire escape as he watched his casually tossed smoke bomb do its work. Joe smiled as he recalled the fatal flaw he had discovered about many airport fire escapes, including Copenhagen’s; it didn’t take an actual fire to get the security system to automatically open the emergency doors. All it took was enough smoke to set off the smoke alarm and trigger the doors to open.


    Just as Joe finished this line of thought the smoke alarm was triggered, opening the emergency doors and allowing Joe an easy escape. Joe couldn’t help but laugh all the way to his ‘safehouse’, a non-descript apartment building in the middle of Copenhagen, chosen specifically for its close proximity to one of Joe’s favourite locations - Tivoli gardens.


    As Joe inserted his key into the door of his apartment, he became acutely aware of a figure sitting in the shadows on his couch. “I don’t know who you are but you’re messing with the wrong guy” he warned. The figure gave no reply but smiled subtly in the shadows. He flicked on the light switch to reveal the true identity of the intruder and to his surprise came face-to-face with none other than the legendary Carmen Sandiego herself.


    “Well, well. I do believe I know exactly where in the world is Carmen Sandigeo” he laughed.



    The visitor returned his laughter with a momentary smile that somewhat lingered as she studied him. The man had a small frame, an oddness to his accent, and a bounce to his movements as if he was ready to either laugh or sneeze at any second.


    "Mr. Kerr, "she spoke, "I see both our reputations precede us, but allow me a proper introduction." She extended a nod of courtesy, "Carmen Sandiego, it’s a pleasure."



    Joe returned the greeting with a gentlemanly bow. “Joe Kerr, and the pleasure is all mine, Carmen. It is an honour to finally meet up with the greatest of all time. I must say, the newspapers and television do not do you justice. You are far more stunning in person. But pleasantries aside, what brings one such as yourself to my humble abode?”


    The bow was pleasant, she expected no less. VILE members, despite their nature to shun the law, are not without morality. They are often talented, politely amiable, and most of all, they enjoy a challenge.


    "I apologize for coming unannounced," she continued, "I may have called prior," as she spoke, she moved fluidly to his bookshelf and glazed leisurely through the titles, "but I heard through tapped vines that you were rather busy." Among a notable mixture of chemistry manuals, cooking recipes and joke references, were a full set of encyclopedias along with novels by crime author Agatha Christie.


    From the choice of furniture, the various personal artifacts, and the scent of a well-utilized kitchen, Carmen surmised Kerr to be a man with proper means; who, while of some eccentric warmth, had been living alone for some years. These points, of course, would affect the ringleader’s decisions much less than the man himself.


    "You dabble in chemistry?" her question opened the on-site interview.


    Joe let out a wry smile and considered his words carefully. He moved over to the stove and set a kettle on before deciding on his answer.


    Her eyes followed his movements to the range with placid caution.


    “I would assume that you know about my reputation, and as such, my modus operandi. One could say that I have both an unexplainable and unorthodox talent for concocting amped up versions of substances otherwise found in classic gags. It is both a blessing and a curse to some extent that my alchemical abilities do not extend too far beyond these compounds, save for the occasional small batches of TNT I use to power the gag bombs.”


    While Vincent had informed her on nearly every detail, the points were better validated from the tones and gestures of the candidate.


    “My version of itching powder, knock-out gas, smoke bombs and laughing gas have been tweaked to work more effectively and yet remain, for the most part, harmless to the ahem...unfortunate victim. They are also hypoallergenic so as not to trigger accidental encephalitic shock.”


    ‘Hypoallergenic’ was a term of interest.


    “I assure you that I use these substances with a combination of both exuberant flair and utmost caution, contradictory as those two may seem. Like yourself, I do value human life and while I may enjoy my pranks, I do not enjoy inflicting mortal harm upon anyone.”


    “Of course,” an agreeable note played from her lips.


    Joe paused to take the now boiling kettle off the stove and take out two old-fashioned tea cups before continuing.


    “If you are wondering about my laboratory and chemical apparatus, I make due with a rental storage facility not too far from here. It would be foolhardy of me to attempt to outfit a proper laboratory with actual safety devices in the mere confines of my apartment/safe house, not to mention entirely against the rules set by the old crone who owns the place. Besides, while I may dress as one for flamboyance sake, let me assure you that I am no fool.”



    “Before we continue, may I interest you in some tea?”


    “I would love tea,” said the thief, “thank you.”


    Passively inspecting the jester’s abode revealed scattered outlets of humor. From an electronic ‘in-use’ sign against the restroom door, to a slightly morose ‘rest in peace’ over the bedroom’s entrance and the various boardgames available to its resident, an inquisitive person may be occupied for hours.


    Surviving as a thief on the run sometimes means being able to read the subtle gestures of the people in one’s immediate surroundings, enabling oneself to know if one should make a hasty retreat. It was this ‘training’ that allowed Joe to spot the otherwise non-existent gesture of hazel eyes scanning his apartment back and forth.


    “I see you’ve spotted my ‘personal touches’ in this place. Admittedly I was a failed comedian before I became a thief so I do have a penchant for humour, however slightly twisted it might be. I also appreciate classic games and gags. These usually show in my choice of “acquisitions”, and also my rap sheet, whichever you may be more familiar with. Oh and speaking of acquisitions,”


    Joe picked up the small, black suitcase from beside the couch and presented the latest addition in his ‘collection’ of paintings to Carmen.



    Carmen paused to reflect the last time she was in front of an original Van Gogh; it was business then as well. While she studied the masterpiece, it occurred to VILE's leader that Joe may have perceived her interest today solely on the heist surrounding The Scream. As probable as it may be, she was here to make another, more permanent form of offer.


    "I like your style, Mr. Kerr," speaking in an appreciative tone, she hinted at his choice of art, "I'm not in the business of old masters this evening," the lady elaborated, "so by 'style', I meant 'talent'."


    Claiming a seat on her host's red sofa, she continued with another question, "Have you ever considered joining a team?" In the trade, 'teams' often consisted of a few trustworthy members; VILE used the word on several levels, but Carmen enjoyed referring to her multinational underground network as a humble unit.



    Joe considered the possible ramifications of where this conversation was heading. In the past, he had tried to recruit people to work with him but they were either in disagreement with Joe’s ‘moral sensibilities’, or lacking the required competencies to pull off the plans. In the end Joe had always resorted to working by himself. Less hassle, less things that could go wrong, less splitting of profits; mostly positives. The only downside had been that because he only worked by himself, he was limited on the scale of heists he could safely pull off.


    The idea of working in a team under the greatest thief in the world tantalized Joe. It was something most thieves could only dream off. For such opportunities were by invitation only, and given the exacting standards of the lady in red, one had a better chance of running into a dodo bird than said invitation.


    Joe also thought about the other reason VILE appealed to him. If the rumors were true, then VILE wasn’t just a team, but a close-knit group, a family of thieves of sorts. Having been on his own for years, Joe sorely missed having real company to joke around with, one that wasn’t out to put him in jail or get something from him.


    After a moment of consideration, Joe replied, choosing his words carefully;


    “As you probably have heard, good help is hard to find these days. It is a challenge to find a competent thief bearing the moral compass you and I seem to share, or the appreciation of the game. As such, I adapted my style and designed most of my heists to be executed by one person only. It has served me well thus far though I have no doubt that it might come back to haunt me one day.”


    Joe paused to take a sip of his tea.



    Pertaining to courtesy, she mimicked her host by also sipping tea.


    “That is why your offer intrigues me. If I could choose any team to work with or in, it would be VILE. For VILE comprises not only of yourself, arguably the greatest of all time, but many other notable thieves whose talents and exploits are well known on the grapevine. It would be an honour for one such as myself to work under and with best and learn from them. I have no doubt that we will have plenty of laughs together.”


    Joe let out a chuckle and stared into piercing hazel eyes before continuing.


    “My only question is why would one such as yourself be interested in a ‘talent’, as you put it, like myself? I would hardly think that knock-out gas and stink bombs were your style.”



    Without a significant shift in expression, Carmen's eyes smiled reactively to the query.


    "I prefer mutual relationships, Mr. Kerr," she replied, "and you've answered your own question even before asking." After listening to Joe's words, she was confident he grasped her reasons, "We're like-minded."


    As she spoke, a small white envelope appeared between her fingers.


    "Inside is an international SIM card," she explained, "When you're ready, inserting this into any phone will trigger your admission process." Handing Joe the envelope, she added, "I apologize, again, for being mysterious, but I'm sure you understand.

  2. It’s funny how things work out


    thought Chase Devineaux to himself with a wry smile.

    When he retired from ACME 15 years ago he certainly did not foresee himself as a wold class winemaker, cruising down the A84 in a custom built Black Porsche Cayman.

    A brief twinge of melancholy hit home as he recalled its predecessor; he had mourned, yes actually mourned, the day the silver Cayman had succumbed to the elements of time and entropy. From its ashes had arose the current iteration he was now driving, a clean energy fueled digital marvel combining the best of modern technology and classic design.

    Fixing his attention back on the road, he guided the vehicle expertly through the brief onslaught of traffic before once again cruising and letting his thoughts wonder; he had caught himself doing that a lot lately and was loathe to admit that his age might be at fault. No, he was much more inclined to blame her unruly influence for his increasingly introspective behaviour.

    Everything had changed since ‘The Incident’ twenty years ago, everything...and everyone.

    ***

    The international ramifications of ‘The Incident’ had neccesitated a year long truce between ACME and VILE whilst both sides dealt with the fallout.

    For her role in resolving ‘The Incident’, Carmen, and by extension VILE, had been offered amnesty for her crimes and even a medal of sorts. She, of course, had steadfastly refused, citing the absurdity of the whole notion. In an eloquence only she could pull off, she had pointed out that there were no charges ever filed because everything she stole was always returned, save one glaring exception; more galling was the fact that she had brazenly, and accurately, called out the whole affair as being a politically motivated bluff on the part of ACME higher ups. The only things she did relent on was the temporal truce.

    During the truce, Carmen and himself had setup several off the record meetings, at times with several other relevant personnel from both factions attending as well.

    The results of those talks was a consensus that the game was over.

    Political and religious climates had changed too drastically to allow VILE the freedom to conduct business as usual; ‘The Incident’ and its aftermath wre poignant reminders of that.

    VILE would cease its old operations shortly after and rebrand itself as a massive organisation with two main branches. The Security and Intelligence Branch specialized, as its name implied, in security design and evaluation, and specialist retrieval consultations for certain law enforcement agencies.
    This branch also covertly assisted ACME with monitoring the criminal intelligence network.

    The Charitable works and Humanitarian branch focused on running two main charitable funds setup by VILE years earlier: The St Nicholas Education fund for orphans, and the New Choice foundation for giving criminals a new way to live, giving them not just a chance to pick up new life skills but giving them an avenue where they could apply it and contribute to society. Both charities were funded with proceeds from the casino and the theatre, in addition to donations from various sources.

    Chase recalled, with no small amount of satisfaction, the number of jaws that had fallen when Carmen had, as part of the rebranding, revealed the casino as being VILE owned. ACME, or rather Chase, had known or at least strongly suspected for awhile, that this had been the case. However, as Lee Galese was quick to point out in no uncertain terms, the entire acquisition process had been legal and above board. Also, while VILE owned, the casino had never directly been used for any criminal venture; it did serve as an occasional safehouse for members, but all profits from the casino had always gone to fund charities and never the criminal aspects of VILE.

    Rosen had grudgingly conceeded the point to a smirking Carmen and left Chase to follow up with Carmen. This would be the beginning of many changes to come.

    Over the next few years Carmen and Chase each trained proteges to take over their roles with the latter disappearing a few months before Chase had officially retired from ACME.

    To no one’s surprise, Chase had handpicked Ivy as his successor; Carmen had opted to train Neb much to Neb’s own astonishment.

    Upon retiring, Chase had relocated to France, purchased a small vineyard and taken up winemaking as a hobby. He had also changed up his look, growing out his now silver hair along with a matching goatee; on hindsight, the uncharacteristic aesthetic change was probably part of a conscious effort to distance himself from his old life; and if he was completely honest, he had retained the goatee partly just to spite her.

    Ironically, the hobby he had picked to allow him to fade into obscurity would propel him into the spotlight years later when his hobby grew into a multi-million dollar business. His signature white and red wines, “Le Chevalier Gris” and “La Roi Rouge”, would gain international acclaim and numerous awards. Carmen once teased that it was probably due to Chase’s subconscious need to excel at everything he tried; he then promptly tried to refute her ny having a more excellent argument, only to realise he had fallen into her trap...again.

    Darn witchy woman

    Carmen had remained as mysterious as ever but now without undergoing some serious changes of her own. Deciding to shed the vestiges of her old life, Carmen had left Patty in charge and gone on sabbatical. During her sabbatical she would take up writing and began to pen the first of many award winning books on the topics of cultural anthropology, history, geography and even literature. To her chagrin, her books had been so well-received by the academic world that several prominent universities had offered her Pseudonym several honorary doctorates; Carmen had of course flatly refused them all. She had however ensured that the majority of book proceeds would go towards VILE’s charities.

    Under a different alias, Carmen had also became a grandmaster and the first female grandmaster to beat Big Blue. Again, she had refused the awards that followed and channelled all monetary prizes toward VILE charities.

    The first to follow Chase in his exit had been Sophie. Having been his closest friend and confidante at ACME, she had known of his intentions to retire since the aftermath of ‘The Incident’. Hence, as he had been training a protege and slowly making the transition to retiring from ACME, she had done likewise and followes his exit a few months later.

    She would resurface to ply her medical expertise as part of the full time staff at Los Angeles Childen’s Hospital eventually becoming one of the division heads. Ironically it was there that she would end up running into Patty Larceny in a professional capacity and both would become close friends and colleagues.

    With her intelligence and sharp tongue, many would have thought Patty a natural pick to be next in line for VILE headship. However, since ‘the incident’, Patty’s heart was no longer in thievery; witnessing devastation first hand had made the young woman yearn for the opposite and so she had turned her hand toward medicine.

    She had exceeded all expectation by becoming a top neurosurgeon before moving to Los Angeles Children's hospital to specialise in treating children. Under the guidance and steady abilities of both Patty and Sophie, the LA children's hospital provided numerous breakthroughs for countless number children. It is no wonder then that Patty was eventually made the Dean of Medicine for the hospital.

    Chase had always suspected that Carmen probably had more than a hand in helping steer Patty into her current field; she always was good in reading people and knowing how to get her agents to live up to or even exceed their potential; it was part of the reason she was such a great leader, though he would never tell that to her.

    Perhaps that was why Carmen had chosen Neb as her successor. To anyone outside of VILE it was a choice out of left field; but, as Chase had later learnt firsthand, the members of VILE all thought highly of the mysterious young lady.

    To her credit, Neb had flourished in her role as leader, helped out by the strong support of many senior VILE agents. Though she sometime seemed unsure, she had a unique way of looking at things and daring to take risks. However, it was also apparent that she, along with afew others, had missed the old days. She still loved the charitable side of the operations but she had made it clear on numerous occasions that she would have much rather been working against ACME than with them. It was a big reason why she had been so willing to secede her position when the opportunity arose.

    The next to leave ACME was his former personal assistant and secretary. According to Ivy, she had resigned a week after Sophie did citing personal reasons. Her presence in the office was sorely missed as Ivy had to hire two secretaries to do her job. Chase recalled chuckling discreetly whilst Ivy ranted over the phone to him about the ineptness of Renee’s replacements; Renee had always made running the office look effortless but Chase had long suspected that anyone else but Renee would have struggled.

    He had stayed in contact with Renee who, he later learnt, had settled down in Canada and started a family. Chase would often send the first bottles of each vintage to Renee as gifts and also to ask for her feedback; one secret of hers he had uncovered whilst they work together was that Renee was something of a wine snob. Her feedback had proved invaluable in shaping the taste of his wine and perhaps was a big reason to its success.

    The third person to leave ACME was shockingly enough, Ivy.

    If you had asked Ivy twenty years ago if she had seen herself leading VILE, she probably would have laughed in your face and then proceeded to send you to the intensive care unit. However, after ‘the incident’ , Chase had noticed a change in her attitude toward the former league of thieves. Many of her former adversaries had earned her respect and friendship and this played a key role in her change of allegiances.

    Of course the key culprit was none other than Rosen, Chase thought with a mixture of humour and sadness. It had been Rosen and her politics that caused Ivy to nearly go insane. When Chase had stepped down, Rosen, looking to turn ACME into a PMC to further her own political agenda, realised Ivy would be too green to oppose her and quickly put in a series of changes that left ACME a shell of its former self; Ivy had tried her best to fight back but Rosen had amassed too much clout within the board by then.

    The straw that had broken the camel’s back was when Rosen opposed Ivy’s nupitals with Eugene Grovington citing some ridiculous rule conflict of interest. This had prompted a disllusioned Ivy to quit ACME on the spot, followed immediately by her devoted husband. About a hundred other ACME staff at the wedding also handed in their badges immediately, chief among them the then head of technology, Zack, and his fiancee, field commander Tanya.

    The wedding day debacle, as it had come to be known, cost Rosen her job, much to the satisfaction of all parties except Rosen herself. This was a huge factor in some of the ACME staff returning to the organisation, led oddly enough by Lee Jordan.

    Lee would prove to be adept at navigating politics and yet fiercely loyal to the old ACME. This made him the perfect candidate to take over as the new Director of Operations. Along with his right hand men, Commander Storm and Head of Research Bran, Lee had made great strides in undoing the damage that Rosen had caused. Chase was proud of Lee for finally stepping up and out of his shadow. Lee was molding ACME into his image now, and strangely, that was no longer a bad thing.

    Whilst Lee was making changes at ACME, the Grovingtons had settled down in Alaska, with Eugene opening up a small but wildly popular cafe. The former pilot and mercenary had been more than happy to leave his military past behind him and focus on his wife and the culinary arts.

    Shortly after the cafe had opened, Joe Kerr had come to visit and invited Ivy to a private dialogue with Neb. Whatever was mentioned in that meeting would forever remain known only between the two women. A week later, Ivy was annouced as formally taking over leadership of VILE; a move that Carmen had seemed oddly pleased about when Chase had questioned her.

    A year later, the now married Zack and Tanya would join up with VILE as well. Zack would open a medical research division in VILE and along with help from Patty, Sophie and Roux would create many biomedical technogical advancements for the treatment of children.

    Tanya meanwhile would takeover the headship of the charitable works division from Joe Kerr.

    The VILE jester had been the obvious choice to head the charitable works branch and he had all but requested it from Carmen who was more than happy to entrust it to him. By the time Tanya had taken over, Joseph had expanded the New Choice charity fund to include construction of over 50 halfway houses cum trade schools across the globe. The Orphans education fund meanwhile had partnered up with UNICEF. Joe had also expanded the charity branch to include monthly donations to the Red Cross and Salvation Army. He had also established the 'Carmine’s Home' cat rescue and rehabilitation center, in honour of the late cat.

    Carmine’s passing had left Joseph sad and fairly heartbroken for a good while. Chase had learnt from Carmen that since their chance meeting at the old base, Joe had unofficially adopted the feline and cared for her. They had been near inseparable and all of VILE had come to view them as a package deal.

    Tanya taking over had allowed Joseph a chance to get away and find himself again. According to Neb, Joe had resurfaced a year later in Stone Harbour acting more like his old self. He was last seen managing the theatre alongside Sarah Nade.

    Neb herself had dropped off the grid becoming a nomad after handing VILE’s reins to Ivy. She had surfaced a couple of times in Flag’s bookstore, helping the silver haired enigma watch the shop when he went on one of his long trips. Other than that, Neb’s whereabouts were basically a mystery to everyone, even Carmen, or so she would have him believe; secretly Chase suspected Carmen was still keeping tabs on her old team but declined to call her out on it.

    Carmen’s former right hand man, Vic the slick, had almost quit immediately when Carmen closed the thievery side of VILE. He had eventually been persuaded by Neb and Joe to take over management of VILE's casino. Vic took to Vegas like an eel to water and thrived there. He even opened an Italian restaurant, Fumigali’s, where the food is so authentic Mama would cry; at least according to Vic. The restaurant proved a hit and Vic would focus on that, opening a chain of Fumagali’s in New York, LA, Chicago, Texas, Florida and DC. He would hand the casino over to another former ACME agent, Mikail.

    Mikail’s military training had given him keen senses and a really sharp eye, key traits for surviving Vegas. Mikail also cut a mean figure in the suit and with his no-nonsense demeanor and krav maga skills, he quickly earned respect as someone not to be messed with. Under his leadership the casino continued to uphold its stellar reputation as the most trustworthy establishment in Vegas. Chase has also heard that a certain ‘lucky cat’ statue had been placed in the casino entrance in honour of Carmine who had been the Mirage’s mascot since VILE took over; rumour has it punters religiously rub the statue’s head in hopes of good luck rubbing off on them.

    ***

    The sound of rain falling on the windshield made Chase let out an appreciative smile; he had always loved watching the rain, finding it oddly therapeutic and mind-clearing; snow, whilst beautiful to watch in its own way, just didn't have the same effect. Snow did however make Chase recall another significant changes that had occurred just after he had retired.

    In one of their last meetings before his retirement and her sabbatical, the duo had correctly predicted that with the game gone, many of its old players would go their own paths. Feeling oddly sentimental, Carmen had suggested to an incredulous Chase that they buy a house; it was the first and only time in his life Chase had performed a spit take.

    The ‘house', as it turns out, was a massive mountain lodge in Alaska. It was a beautiful log cabin style place with 15 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms. Carmen had dubbed the placd as ‘neutral grounds’, a place where there was no ‘ACME' and no ‘VILE', just old friends reconnecting over memories of the past. Despite originally thinking that the nickname better suited a hipster coffee shop, Chase did eventually agree; he never could really say no to Carmen if it didn't involve her breaking the law.

    The lodge was managed by Eugene sknce he lived the closest to it with Ivy setting up a secret bunker/office underneath it. Each member of the old crew would eventually add in their own touches to the place: fully stocked bar, a fully functioning kitchen, hot tub, pool table, baby grand piano, custom chess set, etc. Neb also contributed a full set of Roombas to handle the cleaning, much to Eugene’s relief.

    The old crew would from time to time meet up in the lodge to celebrate and reconnect. The timings were never fixed due to their differing schedules. The only exception was the two weeks from Decembdr 18th to January 1st when the whole crew, even Carmen and Chase, would come together to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s day.

    Zack would always organize a secret santa at the start of the month, sending everyone their santee by private message. The crew would have till Christmas to get the gift and then exchange it with one another. Christmas dinner was very much a family affair with each member of the crew contributing to a dish or a decor item. Chase let out a momentary frown as he recalled that another Christmas tradition for the crew was trying to get ‘mom and dad’ under the mistletoe.

    New Year's eve on the other hand was always a long night filled with booze, ruminations, recollections and lots of laughter. The crew’s aim that night was always to get Chase drunk enough to act out of character, and possibly make a move on Carmen. Lucky for him, he had built up a strong tolerance for alcohol over the years.

    ***

    As the Cayman turned into a street in Mont St Michel, Chase observed in appreciation that the old street had lost none of its charm. Despite being old, the buildings had stood the test of time and none of the modern lightings and fixtures, save for a few LED street lamps, had found their way to this place; Chase nodded in approval, some places should simply not be desecrated.

    Normally parking was a nightmare in MSM but not for Chase; with great ease and satisfaction, he pulled into his personal parking spot in the private parking area of a cafe; good thing he knew the owner.

    Stepping out onto the pavement, Chase noted that the rain had passed leaving a small array of puddles which reglected the moonlight beautifully, further highlighting the picturesque qualities that made MSM so dearly treasured.

    Walking inside the cafe, he was not surprised to see the owner waiting for him in their usual corner, chess set already laid out on the table. He smiled a genuine smile and a nod of deep respect and friendship as he took his place across from her, the elusive enigma herself, Carmen Sandiego.

    She was still clad in red though it was a much more muted red coat sans fedora. Her once long dark hair, now trimmed to a more manageable short length, shined an irridescent silver comparable in shade to his. Her eyes still twinkled with mischief and her face still radiated joie de vive.

    Looking down at the chessboard, Chase noted that she had gone ahead to make the first move.

    “Queen’s gambit? I thought you would take it easy on me?”

    “Depends on whether you decline or accept.” She smirked.

    “There is a never a right answer with you.”

    “Not up to the challenge?”

    With a wordless flourish, Chase made his decision and the duo went through their opening dance of give and take, bait and switch, repose and repartee.

    Ten minuted later Chase pondered his next move furiously. He had fallen yet again into another of Carmen’s traps and her smug smile told him he was on the verge of being checkmated.

    “Didn't i tell you to lose that beard?” Her dulcet tones broke through his concentration with practiced ease.

    “Stop trying to distract me woman”

    “Moi?”

    Chase didn't need to look up to know that she was wearing that teasing smirk she loved using on him.

    Ignoring her, he concentrated again, vaguely aware of the ticking clock beside him. Finally he made his choice.

    “Knight to F6”

    Arching an eyebrow, she made her move.

    “Pawn c7 to c8. Checkmate.”

    Resisting the urge to facepalm at forgetting the innocuously placed pawn that became his undoing, he smiled graciously at her before knockinh his king down to concede defeat.

    “Darn. How did i miss that?”

    “Getting sloppy in your old age?”

    “Hardly. You distracted me.”

    “You let yourself get distracted.”

    “Can you blame me?”

    “No. You’re predictable that way. Most men are.”

    Deciding to change the topic, Chase cleared his throat.

    “Best 2 out of 3 right?”

    Shaking her head in mirth, Carmen responded with her usual mischief.

    “Only if i let you win the second game, dear.”

    Now it was his turn to smirk as he reset the board and took the first move.

    As they resumed their dance of wits once again, Chase thought with some humour and satisfaction,

    It's funny how things work out

    “Checkmate”

    And yet the more things change…


    END
  3. (The following is in honour of Valentine's Day and everyone's favourite couple)

    New agents, new technologies
    Yet the game has never changed
    New strategies, new targets
    Yet still ‘cat and mouse’ by any other name

    Paper has given way to screens
    Ink replaced by digital text
    New systems, new formats
    Yet the work is still as complex

    The more things change, the more the stay the same...

    New planes, new vehicles
    Yet the destination is the same
    The same Isle, the same street
    Same Café with no name

    New décor, new menu,
    Yet the tables and chairs remain
    New glasses, new bottle,
    Yet the drink is always single grain

    The more things change, the more the stay the same...

    New world, new era
    Yet still the same two souls entwined
    Grey King, Red Queen,
    In silence, their relationship defined

    New music, same dance
    Same three words unspoken
    New lipstick, same kiss
    A promise forever unbroken

    The more things change, they more they stay the same
  4. (this short story is in celebration of Carmen's birthday. Enjoy)

    Mont St Michel

    Two figures sat across from each other at a small table in a quaint little cafe; for the longest time they sat in amiable silence, enjoying the serenity of their surroundings. A knowing waiter brought out their usual order whilst the pair continued to converse as only two finely attenuated souls could.

    His barely raised eyebrow was met with the faint glimpse of a smile gracing her ruby red lips. The briefest glimmer of curiosity passing through his eyes was answered by a mischievous glint in hers. If a speck of disdain should be found in his piercing eyes, she would reply with an elegantly raised eyebrow.

    This most intimate of conversations carried on throughout their meal; every sip of coffee and each bite of a profiterole served merely as another step in their flirtatious dance.

    Leaving a tip for their bemused waiter, the duo continued their graceful ballet; he grabbed his coat, she grabbed her purse; for every step he took, she took one in sync with his. To his credit, he knew when to stop so that she could pause and take in the sights.

    Though they both had been here many times, each visit was always refreshing and intriguing for them. The freedom that this place afforded them was almost intoxicating; here there was no trench coat and no badge, no need for pretenses and no need for walls. It was their place, a location that was the closest thing to sacred to both of them; this place would be forever exempt from their usual games and instead serve as the annual ballroom for their most private of waltzes.

    Each year the dance would end in the same place it began, down by the harbour, overlooking the sea; Standing side by side, they embraced the silent calm of the sea, reveling in the last vestiges of each other’s presence.

    Today it was her turn to break the silence. “Thank you”.

    It was just two words, the only two that she’d uttered all day, yet the depth of meaning behind those words was as wide and profound as the ocean before them.

    “Your welcome” he replied.
    The words were not perfunctory but filled with a torrent of warmth and sincerity even he had not believed himself capable of.

    And then, she was gone, almost as if she had been carried by the winds into another realm. Upon his cheeks, the scarlet imprint of her lips were still visible; the only evidence that it had not been yet another dream.

    Willing the winds to carry his words to her, he whispered three last words before he took his leave.

    “Happy Birthday, Carmen.”


    END
    Lucy, Chase, Invader and 2 others like this.
  5. (the following is a fan-fiction in honour of Thanksgiving. Enjoy)

    A VILE Thanksgiving


    Thursdays at Stone Harbour were like Thursdays at any other quaint little English town, slow and dull. The centre of activity in the town, the theatre, was usually closed on said day for rehearsals and ‘other preparations’ for the weekend performances.

    As per the usual, the hallowed temple of the arts was closed this particular Thursday, but for an entirely different reason. This particular day, the building was alive with the hum of celebration and laughter.

    Several long dining tables had been set up in the staff-only dining and expertly decorated under the watchful eye of one Contessa Adrianna Covrenzi. The aristocratic thief was arrayed immaculately in a tailor-made magenta dress which she saved for special celebrations; she would have preferred to show off a scarlet number but conceded that only one woman could and should don that colour tonight.

    Clutching her purse in one gloved hand and gesturing with the other, Contessa directed the henchmen with ruthless efficiency, transforming a simple staff-only dining area into a beautiful banquet hall worthy of Thanksgiving. Alongside the henchmen, the usually reserved Kidman was happily lighting the various candles and staring curiously at their mesmerizing glow.

    The younger VILE agent had ditched her usual grey garbs for some sort of native American costume. Contessa let out a small but discreet smile as the younger agent continued her task under Adrianna’s watchful gaze; it was always refreshing for the senior agents to see Kidman come out of her shell. She was very much the youngest sibling of their group and treated as such by them. Briefly, Contessa wondered if the unusual garment had been supplied by their resident jester.

    Said jester was currently working in the kitchen, leading the culinary brigade alongside a polyester clad chef. Vic the Slick and Joe Kerr both boasted Italian heritage, so it had surprised no one when they decided to work together and take charge of food. Like his counterpart, Joe had kept a small bit of his usual flare in his chef’s outfit – he had removed his mask and substituted his chef’s hat for a jester’s cap whilst Vic had exchanged his usual polyester jacket for a polyester apron.

    Each man had pulled out some old family recipes and was expertly whipping up various dishes, splitting the work evenly between them; Joe had opted to focus on pasta and sides whilst Vic had taken turkey duty upon himself. Behind them, a young blonde giggled; it was certainly a sight to see the two men work side by side, weaving in and around each other in a graceful yet somewhat comical dance.

    Patty Larceny was dressed in a pink pastry chef outfit whose cuteness was only enhanced by the small smudge of flour on her nose. VILE’s golden girl had proven on many occasions that she was a highly adept baker, and so no one had argued when she volunteered to churn out Pumpkin pie and various other sweet treats. Sprinkling some edible glitter on her latest batch of cookies, Patty glanced out to the makeshift bar to see Dr Sara Bellum attempt yet another crazy concoction.

    The enigmatic scientist had ditched her usual lab coat for a new one, just so she didn’t contaminate her drinks with any unwanted additions. Dr Bellum had, as per VILE tradition, wanted to contribute in some way and somehow building a giant mechanical turkey just didn’t fit the bill so she had volunteered to mix the drinks. Beside her on the counter was the Mixologist’s Bible and an array of spirits and other bartending paraphernalia. Underneath the bar though, were several crates of cider just in case.

    As per tradition, a piano had been set up in a corner of the room for Sarah Nade to ply her talents; this year though, the instrument would serve as little more than a decoration. Sarah was out on tour and unable to return to Stone Harbour in time so she had sent an advance copy of her newest album, Plymouth Rock, in her place. The album comprised mainly of Sarah Nade’s signature style rock songs although there were about three or four mellower tunes thrown in as well.

    The best song in the entire album, oddly enough, was a stripped down, simple ballad featuring only the acoustic guitar and Sarah’s heavenly vocals. It was simply titled ‘Coming home’ and was a beautiful and poignant reminder of the importance of family and friends.

    ---

    Soon enough, the room was fully decorated, the candles were all lit, the tables were set, the food was laid out and all the family were seated and exchanging stories and jokes; all that was left was the arrival of their matriarch.

    Suddenly, all chit chat was cut short by loud, heavy footsteps. Eartha Brute entered the dining area carrying a moderately sized fir tree over one shoulder.

    “Sorry I’m late folks. I brought the tree. Where do we set it up? I can’t wait to decorate it.”

    For a few moments, total silence reigned in the dining area as Eartha’s broad grin met only blank stares. Finally, someone spoke up.

    “Ey…that’s a nice tree and all Eartha, it’s just that we got a slight problem here. It’s Thanksgiving today, not Christmas. You’re actually a month early with the tree sweetheart.”

    “Oh”

    For a moment Eartha looked crestfallen and everyone wondered whether she’d burst into tears; despite being her unearthly strength and gruff exterior, Eartha actually had a rather sensitive side to her. All the senior agents knew that it didn’t take that much to get to her emotionally; she was always the first to cry during movie nights – even when the show was a comedy.

    Whatever tension had built up in the room quickly subsided when a familiar voice rang out “That’s a lovely tree Eartha, thank you for your thoughtfulness. It would make a lovely prop for our production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ right Vincent?”

    “Eh, right of course Carmen. Thank you Eartha.”

    Eartha beamed with pride and went to put the tree down by the side of the dining area before taking her seat at the table.

    With the drama over, everyone turned with delight toward the woman who now took her rightful place at the head of the table. For once, the Queen of Thieves had forgone her usual ensemble and instead opted for a beautiful gown. The dark crimson dress hugged her figure in such a way that left no doubt it was tailor made for Carmen herself; even Contessa was impressed by the exquisite number.

    Taking her seat, Carmen was quickly enveloped in a quick hug by Kidman who sat on her left. Across from Kidman, on Carmen’s right was her right-hand man, Vic-the-Slick; Seated beside Vic was a rambunctious Patty Larceny and across from her, the equally lively Joseph Kerr. The two always got along well and it showed with their ever on-going banter;

    Next to Joe was the much more reserved Dr Sara Bellum and across from her, the equally calm Contessa. The two women engaged in respectful yet idle talk, once in a while trying to bring Eartha in, without much success.

    Eartha was seated next to Contessa with Sarah Nade’s empty chair across from her. The powerhouse wasn’t much of a talker and instead preferred to listen to the jokes and admire the food, in particular Vic’s masterpiece of a roast turkey.

    Light, crystalline tapping rang throughout the dining area as Carmen held her glass of cider up for a toast. “Everyone, as it is Thanksgiving, I feel it only appropriate that we begin our meal by each giving gratitude for something. Would anyone like to start us off? Vincent?”

    Clearing his throat, Vic stood up, “Ahem, I guess I, um, am thankful that after all that’s happened recently, everyone is safe and sound and we’ve got a brand new place to call our own.”

    A chorus of agreement was heard from around the table as Vic took his seat; since losing the Antarctic base it has been one perilous adventure after another. Truly, it was a wonderful thing for everyone to be able to just seat down in peace in the safety of Stone Harbour.

    Kidman got up and gave Carmen a big hug and then proceeded to give everyone at the table one too.

    “I’m thankful for you Carmen. I wouldn’t be here without you. I’m also thankful for each one of you at this table; Vic, Patty, Joe, Contessa, Dr Bellum, Eartha, you’re my family. I would be all alone without all of you.

    “Aw Kid, we love you too” giggled Patty as she stood up. “Lolz, I guess I’m grateful that Stone Harbour is such a fantastic place. Sure, the old base held a lot of memories for us but it was also like, totally remote and boring at times. This theatre is a lot more cheery and full of life, and gives us something to do when we aren’t out on heists. Plus, it’s always fun to put a smile on someone’s face. Right Joe?”

    “Couldn’t have said it better myself Patty.” Joe laughed as he stood up to take his turn. “I’m thankful that we’re all here. Thank you Carmen, for choosing each one of us and giving us a chance to work alongside you. It’s been an absolute honour and pleasure.” The sentiment was readily echoed by all present, much to Carmen’s amusement.

    “I guess I’m thankful for being alive.” Contessa uttered in a surprisingly subdued fashion. “Before VILE, I took life for granted; I was so absorbed with living the life that I forgot to live. Being around you guys, made me realize what I’d been missing.”

    “Wow, and here I thought I was the depressing one,” Joked Sara Bellum in her thick Eastern European accent. “As for me, I’m just grateful for second chances. After my past stunts, you still found it in you to take me in again. Thank you, Carmen.” Carmen replied by uttering a few words in a language that only Sara seemed to understand. Whatever it was, it made Sara break into a teary smile.

    Finally, it was Eartha’s turn. After blowing her nose and wiping off the last of her tears, Eartha stood up. “I guess I’m just thankful for all this food. Can we eat now?” This earned her a chorus of laughter.

    ---

    With the meal all but devoured, it was time for desert; Vic was waxing lyrical about his family tradition of Pumpkin Gelato served with Maple Syrup and spiced pumpkin seeds. Joe and Patty were helping serve whilst Vic continued with his spiel, oblivious to the polite chuckling going on around him.

    As the thieves tucked into their desert, Kidman turned towards the object of her adulation. “I just realized that you never got to share what you were thankful for, Carmen.”

    The VILE Leader merely displayed her trademark enigmatic smile as the rest of the table turned curiously toward her. “I guess if I have to pick something, I’d say I’m thankful for ACME.”

    At first, Kidman laughed heartily, thinking Carmen was telling one of her rare jokes. However, she stopped abruptly after realizing everyone else at the table wasn’t laughing but instead smiling thoughtfully. Perplexed, she turned back to Carmen, waiting for an explanation.

    “Confused little one? Don’t be. For as long as I’ve played this game, ACME has been a most worthy adversary, and a fairly reliable ally during the more distasteful of times. They have made the game most enjoyable thus far, and for that I am thankful.”

    “Ey, they might be stick-in-the-muds but there ain’t no denying those gumshoes are good at what they do.” Vic mused before eating another spoonful of the gelato.

    “You know,” Joe piped up. “ACME and VILE are really the last of a dying breed. We represent ideals that are almost non-existent in the world today – the honest cop and the honourable thief. We’re two sides of the same coin really.”

    “Yeah, but we’re the glittery side.” Patty giggled.

    Carmen raised her glass, halting any further conversation on the topic.
    “A toast then, to ACME.”

    “To ACME!” came the unanimous reply.

    As the dining room soon erupted into laughter and animated conversations again, Carmen discreetly glanced at the untouched piano and smiled ruefully. Lifting her glass almost imperceptibly, she whispered to no one in particular,

    “Happy Thanksgiving Chase.”

    ---

    Across the pond, in a certain office of a certain crime stopping agency, a man sat on his leather office chair and slowly sipped from his glass of scotch; his rugged yet smooth features perfectly illuminated by the moonlight streaming in.

    The laptop on his desk forgotten, he pours himself another glass and glances outside the window; Compulsively, he seeks out the figure that is always there, the phantom that simultaneously haunts and comforts him. Though he knows the futility of the task, his hawk-like eyes never cease scanning the rooftops. Tonight, there is no shadow there to taunt him, no voice that whispers in the wind; only silence in all its deafening glory.

    Bemused, the man turns his gaze back to his office, back to the single rose sitting in a glass vase on his desk. He lifts his glass to offer a toast though he knows she’ll never hear it.

    “Happy Thanksgiving, Carmen, wherever you are.”
  6. Hi guys, the following is a long (very) poem based on the 3-part episode 'Retribution' from the 'Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego' cartoon series. Enjoy.

    The turn of the Maelstrom

    As lightning cleaves the sky in two
    My weary eyes behold the view
    The tempest outside, a mirror of my mood
    Whilst in this infernal cage I brood

    Once I used to roam free and unhindered
    My ambition, a fire eternally kindled
    Poseidon himself deferred unto me
    The undisputed master of the sea

    The oceans and their treasures were mine to behold
    Yet my thirst was not of silver or gold
    Whatsoever I wished, that I would acquire
    But a worthy opponent was my fondest desire

    The tide turned when a young starlet arose
    Foolhardy enough, my reign to oppose
    With youthful exuberance she laid down her traps
    Yet I saw through what she kept under wraps

    As she chased after me, time after time
    I knew one day she would turn to crime
    Her heart was like mine, to a certain extent
    To overcome a great challenge was our deepest intent

    I warned her of her inevitable fate
    Yet her only replies were of denial and hate
    With scorn I derided her, treated her a fool
    For she denied what we both knew was true

    The game stayed this way for the longest of times
    She always fell short of stopping my crimes
    For despite her best efforts and relentless pursuit
    My wits and technology made her attempts moot

    Yet so clearly I remember that unthinkable day
    When luck abandoned me, and smiled her way
    My greatest triumph it was supposed to be
    An affirmation of my lordship over the sea

    The sunken 'unsinkable' awaited my call
    To rise and awaken from her watery lull
    My signal now given, she started to rise
    And then came the starlet, to my utter demise

    Having escaped the embrace of my eight-armed friend,
    She set her sights on disrupting my plan
    She succeeded with help from her metallic cohort
    A bumbling fool who was more than a few circuits short

    By happenstance and dumb luck, more the latter I say
    They managed to apprehend me that fateful day
    They locked me in chains and left me to rot
    My threat of revenge they promptly forgot

    From my chains I watched as the starlet spread her wings
    As I predicted she set her sights on greater things
    Then she committed the greatest sin conceivable
    Her gall to me was frankly unbelievable

    She became a thief and stole among other things, my throne
    The mantle of greatest thief was to be mine alone
    For years I plotted, her lesson she’d learn
    I would make her suffer, I would make her burn

    Finally came the day for me to break free
    Out from my prison I managed to flee
    My plan was executed without a single flaw
    The wardens never saw me waltz right out the door

    My escape however was but a minor achievement
    The real goal was that upstart’s bereavement
    With fury I tore apart the reputation she’d created
    I ruined the upstart and left her to be humiliated

    With the minx removed and my revenge well served
    It was time to regain the laud and acclaim I deserved
    My thrones I’d reclaim, my glory I’d regain
    And as king of the sea and greatest of thieves reign

    My plan was a theft so unheard of in scale
    It would be a legend that generations regale
    The first ship ever built was now calling to me
    She awaited my arrival on the Ararat in Turkey

    The ark of legend was within my grasp
    When my plan was shattered on victory’s cusp
    That darn upstart once again reappeared
    Her impudent head she once again reared

    Who would have thought that the flock she had left
    Would come to her aid when she was bereft
    With their help and the aid of her robotic old friend
    They once again brought my plans to an end

    In shackles they put me and tied me in chains
    They caged me up and shut me up once again
    They think it’s over, my threat shall no longer loom
    Their assumption shall be the bringer of their doom

    For just like my namesake I am an unstoppable force
    No one shall ever bring an end to my cause
    Unless I will it, there is no end to my game
    I am Maelstrom, and I cannot be tamed!
  7. (Hi all, I'm back with another fanfiction. This one is a film noir type story about you know who. Enjoy! And Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! - Joe Kerr)

    Miracles do happen...


    It all started when she walked into my office. She sashayed in with all the flair and panache one would expect from a lady of her position; not surprising really until I considered that she had entered through the window.

    Impressive, not that I would let her know of course.


    She was devoid of her usual personal effects, opting instead to don a form fitting evening dress; it was strapless and on closer inspection looked to be made out of the finest silk; its burgundy tones complimented perfectly by the similarly hued stilettos she wore. The ensemble was capped off with a white faux fur shawl, diamond earrings and a matching necklace.

    Very impressive indeed. Right, stop staring.

    Her crimson lips curled into that infamous smirk of hers and soon parted to let her dulcet tones seduce my oh so weary ears.

    "Relax, I'm not here to cause trouble; not this time, not tonight."

    I merely raised an eyebrow in response.

    And I would believe you, why?

    Displaying her unearthly and frankly sometimes disturbing ability to read minds (mainly mine), she answered the question that had been on the tip of my tongue.

    "The diamonds aren't stolen. They were a gift from a dear friend; And yes, hard to believe as it is, I do have friends; they are few but trustworthy, as I am sure you would agree."

    Without a word, I turned to the silver tray behind my desk whereupon sat a couple of glasses and a bucket of ice. I could feel her gaze on me as I poured out a measured amount of the amber liquid that had been my solitary friend for so many a night in the office.

    I handed her a glass which she received in silent mirth. Almost as if we planned it, we sipped our golden beverage at exactly the same time.

    "You always did have fine taste in Bourbon. Although, I am tempted to think you picked "Devil's Cut" for a reason. Trying to send me a message?"

    You're not exactly in a blue dress but it's close enough.

    I merely answered in my trademark stony gaze and waited for her to continue. She let out a sultry giggle before continuing.

    "I am merely here on professional courtesy. I would like to inform you that for once, you shall have no trouble from me or my...associates, over the next few days."

    Should I be glad or wary? With you I never know.

    "Our mutual friend, Mr Vincent, has persuaded me to take a well-earned vacation this year. 'Tis the season of goodwill' is how I believe he put it."

    I withheld the urge to laugh as I took another sip from my glass. For her part, she waited until the last drop of golden goodness had vanished down my parched throat before she carried on.

    "Do be aware though, that you just might run into me in town, if you ever get out of your office. Seriously, it is Christmas Eve, you really should consider taking a break."

    Coming from you? Ms Workaholic? Yeah, and miracles do happen.

    "A little hypocritical of me, I know; But at least I'm not the one working tonight."

    Technically you are still working something...wait...mind out of the gutter.

    "I'm meeting my friends for a meal over at John's. I'm sure you're well acquainted with it; though it has been awhile since we dined together."

    Ah memories...that I should be forgetting and not raking up. Curse her honey-laced words!

    Smirking like the cat that got the cream, she waltzed towards my door with what could only be described as unearthly grace.

    "Farewell, Chase; and Merry Christmas."

    Before I could blink, the door had open and shut and she was gone as suddenly as she came; the only trace of her being her perfume; it was a classic fragrance of which I would never forget, and probably never admit to liking.

    Chanel No. 5. A classy scent for a classy dame...what the heck am I thinking?

    I looked back to where her glass had been placed on my desk to discover that she had left me with three little gifts.

    The first, was a simple black box that held within it a watch, MY watch; the same timepiece she had pilfered from me in one of our earlier meetings.

    The second was a little red card with gold cursive writing on it.
    Reservation is at 9pm. Sandra Giemenco.

    Instinctively, I flipped the card over and smirked at the four little words on it.
    Leave the handcuffs behind.

    Any indecisiveness I had on the matter was put to rest when I realized what her third gift was - a sprig of mistletoe.

    Pocketing the cheeky little trinket, I slipped the watch onto my wrist and glanced at the intricate dials.

    8.45pm. I can make it if I hurry. After all, someone has to make sure she doesn't take the falcon...again.

    As I left the office, I was vaguely aware that it had started snowing.

    I guess miracles do happen after all.
  8. What she knows

    Being the personal secretary of the ACME Director of Operations, Renee St Clair knows many things.

    She knows how to type 120 words per minute whilst answering a phone call in 15 different languages.

    She knows how to brew one of the best coffees in the world, and how much scotch to add in to suit Chase Devineaux's moods.

    She knows where to find every file in ACME and how to contact every agent at a moment's notice; she also knows just what to tell those agents so that they comply with Chase's orders.

    She knows many things about ACME that others aren't privy to; like what the menu for the staff cafeteria will be - and what to avoid ordering.

    But above all that, she knows secrets that she knows she's not supposed to know.

    She knows where Chase really goes to when he leaves for impromptu business meetings in 'Europe'.

    She knows that Chase's sources of intel are actually just all one person whom he would never admit to meeting.

    She knows that Chase only uses one cologne because it was a gift - and she knows who gave him that gift.

    She knows that same reasoning applies to his watch and pen.

    She knows about the stash of letters and notes that Chase keeps hidden in his secret compartment; He claims its evidence against a certain thief, she knows otherwise.

    She knows how to spot the near non-existent twinkle in his eye whenever his ex-partner's name is mentioned; she also knows how inaccurate that term really is.

    She also knows the real reason the glitch with the security cameras has never been fixed.

    She knows that when Chase stays back late to work, it's really because he has a special late night meeting scheduled; she knows this is when he 'gathers intel'

    She knows that when Chase beats her to the office, it's because he never left; his 'meeting' probably lasted longer than planned.

    She also knows that is why he keeps a spare set of clothes in the office.

    She also knows that when he announces his need to freshen up, it really means that he is going to check for any lipstick stains.

    She knows he hates flowers yet has a soft spot for a rose of the darkest shade of scarlet; a flower sometimes seen in his office after one of his late night meetings.

    She knows that Chase knows she knows; he trusts her to be discreet and she knows not to break that trust.

    She knows better than to question him; after all, the heart wants what it wants.

    She also knows she's a sucker for a good love story.

    That's why as she leaves her desk tonight, she knows to turn off the security cameras in the office.

    As she walks out of the office, she glances at his doorway; He gives her a discreet nod and she does returns it as she leaves.

    She knows about the figure in the shadows watching her every move. Before she reaches the elevator, she whispers, knowing she will be heard.

    "Take care of him, Carmen."

    And then she takes her leave, knowing that he's in good hands.
  9. The following is a FanFiction based mainly on the WOEICS cartoon series. Hope you guys get the references and enjoy it. (Note: Kleenex recommended for front part of the story)

    Carmen's Legacy

    Ever since the incident with Lee in the Forbidden City, it had dawned on all the players involved that the game was becoming much more dangerous. Carmen, for her part, never changed her philosophy and continued to do everything in her power to keep the game safe, for as long as she ran it; Lee Jordan however, was another story.

    The sibling detectives always used to joke that surviving the C5’s unpredictable portal placements was the most hazardous thing on the job. That changed when Lee escaped and began pulling capers again. To counter Lee’s penchant for violence, despicable tricks and handguns in general, Zack and Ivy had to don equipment that they had never had to use before – bullet-resistant vests, stun guns, tear gas grenades. Granted, Suhara had taught them the value of always carrying a knife in the field, but not until Lee and his men begun pushing things did they ever have to use the knife as a weapon, albeit a defensive one.

    Things came to a head one day when Lee pulled a caper with the express purpose of capturing and killing the ACME duo. Carmen had caught wind of this and come to Zack and Ivy’s aid. However, no one was prepared for what would transpire.

    Carmen had distracted Lee and allowed the siblings to escape their bonds. Somehow, during the ensuing scuffle, Zack and Ivy had got separated and Zack had found himself face to face with Lee and his Glock. One moment, Lee was gloating and the next, Carmen had dived in and pushed Zack to safety. Unfortunately for Carmen, she had placed herself in the line of fire in order to do so and now, her luck had run out.

    Time seemed to stop as the scarlet clad thief dropped to the ground with a sickening thud. A stunned Lee dropped the handgun and turned to run, only to be apprehended by the ACME Calvary who had only just arrived. Zack and Ivy meanwhile just rushed to Carmen’s side in full panic.

    “Someone call an ambulance!” yelled Zack as he wiped tears from his eyes.

    “Don’t bother Zack. And please don’t cry for me,” Carmen wheezed out in a strained voice.

    “Carmen, don’t give up. Stay strong. You’re…you’re the strongest person I know. You can’t give up!” Zack cried as he held her hand.

    “Zack’s right, Carmen. The game isn’t over, you can’t leave us, not like this. This game has to end by your hand or ours, not by Lee. I won’t allow it, can’t allow it. Carmen!”

    When the paramedics arrived to carry Carmen to the hospital, the detectives followed her in the ambulance, never ceasing the flow of tears. C.H.I.E.F joined them in the ambulance moments later, for once suitably sombre and morose.

    The trio sat in silence gazing at their favourite thief who somehow still managed to look elegant despite the situation. The last few moments of Carmen’s life were spent reconciling with C.H.I.E.F and giving her last few words of wisdom to the detectives. She never made it to the hospital in time – she had lost too much blood.

    Nobody could believe it, nobody wanted to believe it, but nobody could deny it: Carmen Sandiego was dead – and it wasn’t a hoax this time.

    ---

    Two days later, on the isle of Mont St Michel, all of VILE had turned up for the funeral. ACME had called a truce with VILE so that everyone who wanted to could pay their last respects without fear of incarceration. Carmen’s body had been dressed in her usual red attire, replete with fedora on her chest. She had placed in a glass coffin to create what C.H.I.E.F. had dubbed ‘An elegant burial for an elegant thief’

    Clad in a black dress complete with black gloves and veil, Ivy took her seat in the front row beside her Tuxedo clad brother. The C.H.I.E.F., Suhara, Tatiana, Armando, Jasmine and other ACME agents that had once chased Carmen sat in the same row with them. C.H.I.E.F. had even brought out his old body and wore a tux on just for today.

    Directly behind them, some of Carmen’s longest serving VILE agents, led most surprising by Dr Sara Bellum, took their seats. Sarah Nade, Patty Larcerny, Vic the Slick, Double Trouble, Lars Vegas, Mo Skeeter, Eartha Brute, and Lee Galese were the few faces Zack and Ivy managed to make out between their tears. The rest of VILE and ACME randomly took the rest of the seats.

    There were five eulogies in all – One from Suhara, one from the C.H.I.E.F., one from Vic, one from Sara Bellum, and finally a combined one from Zack and Ivy.

    “…whenever Carmen led us on one of her merry chases, we always wondered how she could take grand larceny and treat it as a game. It was one of the things, that personally, infuriated myself abou her…” Ivy had uttered

    “…but now we understand.” Zack smiled and continued where his sister left off.
    “Looking back, we realized that the closest thing Ivy and myself have had to a maternal figure was Carmen. Through her games, she taught us how to overcome our fears, to see our weaknesses and overcome them…”

    “…to believe in ourselves, and most of all to be a better person and a better Agent.” Ivy finished with a sob.

    “The games were her way of teaching us the lessons of life; they were her way of caring for us. I’m just sorry that I’ll never get to know what the other lessons she had in store for us were.”

    “For all of us gathered here today, Carmen Sandiego was more than just the world’s greatest thief. She was for some of us a daughter…”
    Zack paused to looked at Suhara whilst Ivy looked at C.H.I.E.F. before continuing.

    “…a sister…” Sara Bellum, Vic and Sarah Nade all let out loud sobs as the siblings paused again.

    “…a maternal figure… “ Zack paused and spared Patty and emphatic glance. She smiled in return.

    “…a teacher…” the ACME agents and various VILE agents shed tears amidst their bittersweet smiles.

    “..but most of all, for all of us, she was our friend. In her own unique way, she wormed her way into our hearts and our lives and became our friend. ..” everyone paused to sob and wail at this.

    “…thank you, Carmen. Thank you for all the memories. We will never forget your legacy in our lives. Your memory will live on in all of us here today. Rest in peace.”

    After all the happy memories and umpteenth boxes of Kleenex later, Sarah Nade wrapped things up with a beautiful rendition of ‘ Amazing Grace’ as the coffin was lowered.

    When the proceedings were over Zack, Ivy and the C.H.I.E.F. were approached by Lee Galese. “Hey Detectives, I’m sorry to bother you at such a time but I still have to do my job. There is the little matter of Carmen’s will that needs to be executed A.S.A.P. We’ll be meeting at VILE HQ to discuss it. Here’s the address and the time of the meeting. See you there.”

    It had taken a while for it to sink in but the siblings finally recalled that Carmen had left them the rights to VILE. That was why Lee gave them the otherwise sacred address – they owned it now.

    “What are we going to do sis?”

    “I dunno little bro, I dunno.”

    For once, C.H.I.E.F. had no smart comments to add. He too was perplexed.

    ---

    The next day at VILE HQ, the detective duo sat a round table with Sara Bellum, Vic the Slick, Patty Larcerny and Sarah Nade. All six individuals stared blankly as Lee Galesse orchestrated proceedings and read out the will. From all the legal jargon, the six individuals somehow managed to grasp that Carmen had left Sarah Nade, and Patty Larcerny to continue to run the charitable side of VILE, Carmen’s patents for various tech was given over to Dr Bellum, Vic was to handle welfare and insurance for all the henchmen and agents, and finally, all of VILE and all of Carmens other previously unmentioned assets were to go to Zack and Ivy. The siblings would have joint custody.

    After Lee had finished his part and everyone had signed the various contracts, Lee pulled out two large stacks of documents and tossed them to Zack and Ivy.

    “What is this for? I thought we were done?”

    Lee stared at the duo solemnly.

    “Those are the documents both of you are going to have to sign if you want to shut down VILE.” Four gasps rang out from around the table and Lee paused, annoyed, before continuing.

    “I took the liberty of drafting these up for you since I assume that’s what you want to do. I’ll need everything in triplicate by the way.”

    “Efficient! No wonder Carmen chose you.” Zack joked briefly before wincing at the memory of Carmen. Lee Galese bristled with pride briefly before he too winced at the memories.

    Before the detective duo could ponder their next move, the four thieves at the table stood up to confront them.

    “You can’t shut down VILE!”

    “You’ll do more harm than good if you shut us down!”

    “Think of the henchmen. Where will they go?”

    “Please reconsider!”

    Zack and Ivy were reeling and Lee Galese just smirked and left the six to talk things through. He mentioned briefly that he would be out getting a double expresso and would return in half an hour for their verdict.
    ---
    “Detectives,” Dr Sara Bellum began, “please reconsider your actions. Do not shut down VILE.”

    “Give us one good reason, Sara” replied Ivy a little tersely.

    “We’ll give you four!” replied Vic. “Dr Bellum, you first.”

    “Da. Thank you Vincent. Now where was I? Ah yes, consider this. You know that VILE is always full of high tech vehicles and gadgets, most of which are built and developed by Carmen and myself, but do you know where the funding comes for all of this?”

    “Not really, we just assumed you stole everything.” Replied Zack abashedly.

    Rolling her eyes, the scientist continued. “NO! We have two sources of funding in VILE and neither one is Carmen’s heists. The first source is through our patents. You have just heard how Carmen’s patents now all fall into my purview?”

    The detectives both nodded and awaited her elaboration.

    “Those patents are for various vehicle types we have invented, various little tech items used in heists, and the other aspect of VILE’s projects we don’t tell many people about – our medical branch. One reason Carmen hired me is that I have an extensive background in biomedical engineering.

    Carmen had me work on improved technology for pacemakers, defibrillators, artificial limbs and even mechanical organs. All of these inventions we sell to various industries – all of which were screened and handpicked by Carmen herself. They pay us for the rights to use the ideas and the technology. We also sometimes consult on their implementation or current projects.

    Of course, all of this is done under aliases and pseudonyms but effectively it is still VILE that is doing it. Our technological patents bring in hundreds of millions each year, and save an even greater number of lives.

    And NO! We have never and will never sell weapons or inventions that can be used as such.”

    The detectives looked stunned at the revelation but Vic and the others weren’t through. It was now Sarah Nade’s turn to appeal.

    “The other revenue source is a little darker…it comes from the underworld.”

    Seeing the suspicious looks the detectives were giving her, she quickly elaborated.

    “Carmen used VILE to run an extensive intelligence network. As a result, we often pick up on various activities of money laundering, drug running, arms smuggling, etc. When we do pick up such information, we sometimes pass anonymous tips onto various law enforcement agencies, including ACME.

    Other times, we act on our own and intercept these activities. We take the money we intercept and use it to fund our own activities instead of leaving it to fund various arms deals and smuggling activities. If we find weapons or drugs, we burn and dispose of them. We free any people we find being smuggled and even help put them up in halfway homes for rehab if needed.”

    At the mention of this, Vic’s face distorted in disgust as he recalled the couple of occasions in which they had uncovered human smuggling rings and had to rescue the poor victims. Sarah gave him a small comforting touch before continuing.

    “You might wonder if we interfere so much in the activities of other criminal organisations, why haven’t they struck back at us? The answer is because they can’t. Remember that I said we had an intelligence network? Carmen amassed a vast amount of intelligence and evidence on various criminal organisations. At times, she would use this information to bring down some of these organisations; at other times, she kept it as leverage.”

    “I see yous is wondering what kind of leverage? It was leverage to keep those goons at bay.” Vic continued as Sarah sat back down.

    “Carmen realized that she couldn’t shut down every criminal organization because others would spring up and take over them. Humanity is sadly quite depraved sometimes. But anyways, what she couldn’t shut down, she kept in check with what she had on them. If you shut us down, there will be no one to keep them in check anymore.”

    “But can’t we just hand in the information to all law enforcement agencies?”
    The four thieves smiled at the naivety of the detectives before Vic set them straight.

    “You aren’t listening. These organisations sometime have roots even in corrupts cops and such. What’s to prevent the information from disappearing suddenly thanks to a corrupt cop, or one of the other organizations intercepting all the information and becoming a global kingpin? Besides, even if we could shut down every existing criminal organizations, others will spring up in their place and this time there will be no one to keep them in check. Speaking of which, we now come to reason three.”

    Taking a deep breath, Vic continued with his ‘sales pitch’.

    “Now consider that VILE has numerous employees directly and indirectly. They are all scattered around the world and somehow or other make their living via VILE. They might run our legit fronts, our safe houses, HQs, etc. or simply one of the many charitable organisations which Patty here will tell you about shortly.

    Anyway to put it briefly, all these employees, including ourselves, are either ex-cons, current cons or people with no real educational background. Carmen took all of us in and gave us a way to earn a living without having to resort to things that would be extremely harmful. VILE may be criminal but we’ve never hurt anyone or condoned anything other than theft. We don’t do drugs, arms, human trafficking, murder, political manipulation and all those other evil things you hear about on TV. Compared to the other criminal organisations, we’re saints.

    If you shut us down, all the current employees won’t have any place to go. Sure there is jail but I doubt your jails would hold all of us for too long. Then what? We can’t get decent jobs with our records and lack of formal education in some cases, so all that’s left is crime. Us senior agents who were friends with the boss might have taken on her ideals but the lower level grunts, without supervision might have to revert to harmful crimes again.

    So technically, if you shut us down, you’re setting loose a tonne of murderers, kidnappers and the like on the world. It’s your call, detectives.”

    Finally, Patty stood up.

    “Please, consider the charities too. VILE doesn’t just use its revenue for its own criminal activities, we also used much of the money to fund charities around the world. We pour billions hundreds of millions into various charities every year. We even run a few under our aliases. If you shut us down, those charities we run will have to shut down to because we won’t be able to fund them.”

    “Oh, and here’s a fifth reason, just as a bonus.” Lee Galese said as he walked in and took his seat again.

    “Consider what happens to your ACME friends if we shut down. The criminals you’ll be facing in future will be the likes of Lee Jordan or worse. We’re glad he’s behind bars for murder right now but I don’t think he’ll stay there very long.

    As Vic has mentioned previously, we keep other criminals in check. Without us, you’ll be facing much more dangerous foes on the street. You sure you want to be doing that?”

    “Give us some time to discuss things” Ivy had replied and dragged her brother outside to talk.

    ---

    Twenty tense minutes later, they returned.

    “You win. We’re not shutting down VILE. We can’t. We promised to carry on Carmen’s legacy and what VILE does is just that.”

    Zack made a show of tearing up the documents for shutting down VILE but was stopped by Lee Galese.

    “I wouldn’t do that detectives.”

    Everyone stared at him as if he had grown a second head.

    “You should use a diamond cut shredder when disposing official documents. Here, let me.”

    At that everyone sighed in relief as Lee Galese shredded the documents. Soon, Patty was tossing the shredded documents as confetti in the air.

    “Uh, not to be a killjoy boss..uh bosses, but when’s our next caper?” Vic had sprung the million dollar question and everyone looked expectantly to the new heads of VILE.

    Ivy smiled a Carmen-like smile. “Soon Vic, soon. But first we have some things to settle.”

    ---

    The C.H.I.E.F. just about had an aneurysm AND a hernia (if either was possible for him) when Zack and Ivy both tendered in their resignations three days later. Both cited that with Carmen gone, they wanted to move on, but there was an unspoken acknowledgement that the game would be continuing with the duo now playing adversaries.

    Later that day, a call from Armando confirmed the C.H.I.E.F.’s suspicions when the ‘Tigress’ costume and all its effects mysteriously vanished from the ACME safehouse.

    ---
    Two weeks later, a young blonde Russian chased a costumed cat-burglar up the stairs of Notre Dame.

    “Give it up, Tigress, you can’t escape from us!”

    “Nice to see some things haven’t changed, Tatiana.” Ivy flipped her visor to give a cheeky gaze to her old friend and potential sister-in-law.

    “By the way, Zack sends his regards.”

    “Funny. I’ll have to send him yours once I lock you up.” Tanya smiled in return. She pointed behind Ivy to clue her in to Jasmine having cut off all seeming escape routes.

    Ivy merely laughed in response.

    “After chasing Carmen for so long, I finally learnt what she’d always been trying to tell me.”

    “What’s that?” Both Jasmine and Tanya growled.

    Flipping her visor down, Ivy jumped out the window, shocking both detectives.

    “There’s more than one way to skin a cat!” came Ivy’s yell as she blasted away on her jet pack, much like Carmen used to do to her and Zack.

    Tatiana and Jasmine just shook their heads and laughed. The game was back on, albeit with new players on one side but it was something that would not change – it was Carmen’s legacy for them. As much as they hated that Zack and Ivy switched sides, they understood it and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

    Meanwhile, Ivy zoomed by the Eiffel Tower and memories of her first case against Carmen flooded back.

    “Interesting how things came full circle, eh sis?”

    Zack’s voice over her communicator jolted her out of her thoughts.

    “Yeah. It is. Hey Bro, if you don’t mind, I might be making a small detour.”

    “Sure. I would too if I were you. Give her my regards.”

    ---

    An hour later, on the isle of Mont St Michel, the Tigress stood in front of a simple tombstone and placed a red rose on it. She also placed in front of it the Mona Lisa, complete with protective case. She knew ACME would be here soon so she didn’t have long.

    “This one’s for you, Carmen. Thank you for everything. Zack sends his regards as well."

    Pausing to wipe away some tears, she uttered her final words before fleeing into the night, much like her mentor before her used to do.

    "Rest in peace.”

    THE END
  10. This poem is written in dedication to Valentine's Day 2014 and our favourite couple/non-couple. Enjoy!

    Our yearly tradition, our annual dance
    Once again begins anew
    The setting has remained unchanged
    The promise still ever true

    On the isle of Mont St Michel
    At our pre-appointed place
    I await with the promised rose in hand
    She alone will be its vase

    She makes not a sound as she approaches
    Yet I know that she is here
    Her perfume grows ever more intoxicating
    With every step that she draws near

    She stands beside me in peaceful silence
    I turn and meet her gaze
    No words are spoken, no words are needed
    Just a simple, meaningful embrace

    The embrace now turns into a dance
    There is no music, just our hearts that beat in time
    Under the stars we twirl and waltz
    Free from any division of law and crime

    A sound sweeter than music rings through the air
    - her laughter, so pure and sweet
    It's a memory I treasure and hold so dear
    My guilty pleasure, my forbidden treat

    Our eyes convey what words cannot
    Deepest emotions laid bare for the hour
    Our revelry lasts through the night
    For once, I wish time moved slower

    The morning sun signals the end
    It's time to say goodbye
    Our kiss tells of our true emotions
    It is our last respite before we go back to the lie

    She smells the rose and says 'thank you'
    Then she tosses it into the air
    She's gone before it ever hits the grounds
    Almost as if she was never there

    The ache in my chest tells me otherwise
    She stole my heart before she left
    She stole my attention when she first walked in
    When she kissed me, she stole my breath

    No wonder she is widely hailed
    As the greatest thief the world has ever known
    I don't know when I'll see her again
    But I know we'll always have this day to call our own

    "Happy Valentine's Day, Carmen" I whisper
    As I leave in bittersweet haste
    I never saw the shadow that whispered back
    "Happy Valentine's Day, Chase"